Rushing offense – A-
There will be plenty who want to complain about the inability of Marcus Thigpen (8 carries, 18 yards) to get much going on the ground, but it's impossible not to give an ‘A' to an offense to piles up 297 yards and averages more than seven yards per carry. It was IU's best single-game performance since running for 338 in a 41-24 win over Akron last season. Kellen Lewis led the way with 185 yards on nine carries, and it's worth noting that both of his big touchdown runs (75 and 62 yards) came on designed option runs and not from scrambles when pass protection broke down. While Lewis paced the ground game, Bryan Payton added another 57 yards on nine carries, highlighted by a third-quarter, 34-yard run where he broke a couple of tackles and set up Lewis' five-yard touchdown pass to Demarlo Belcher. Sure, Thigpen struggled to get much going and short yardage situations still appear to be an issue, but the running game produced big plays and big yardage totals Saturday.
Notable: Kellen Lewis' 75 and 62-yard touchdown runs marked the first time in IU football history that a player scored on a pair of runs of at least 60 yards in a game. Lewis' 75-yard first-quarter run was also the longest touchdown run since 2001 when Levron Williams broke off a 80-yard TD scamper at Wisconsin.
Passing offense – B-
Lewis relied on underneath routes on his way to a 17-of-27 day for 144 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. While many observers thought the passing attack was missing the big-play component, a lot of the reason for that was a WKU defense that didn't want to surrender anything deep. It was actually a contest very similar to last year's Akron contest, when the Zips focused on stopping the pass and limited Lewis to only 137 yards on 19-of-24 passing. But IU piled up 338 yards on the ground, a total close to Saturday's 297. The biggest positives from Saturday was probably the debuts of Belcher (1 catch, 5-yard TD) and tight end Max Dedmond (1 catch, 5 yards), both of whom figure to become more prominent in the passing attack. Terrance Turner also contributed four catches for 38 yards after missing most of last season with a torn knee ligament.
Notable: Demarlo Belcher became the first freshman to catch a touchdown pass in the season opener since Andrew Means in 2006, and he was the first true freshman to catch a touchdown pass in a game since Brandon Walker-Roby caught a nine-yard touchdown pass against Kentucky in week three of the 2005 season. Oddly enough, Means hasn't caught another touchdown pass since, and Walker-Roby has only caught one more touchdown pass (also in the 2005 season).
Rushing defense – A
Western Kentucky averaged nearly 250 yards rushing/game a season ago, and the Hoosiers limited the Hilltoppers to only 63 on 31 carries. Last year's leading rusher Tyrell Hayden carried only three times for five yards, and nearly half of WKU's carries (15) came from quarterback K.J. Black. Black did run for 47 yards on 15 carries including three runs of 10 yards or more, but when the play call was a run Indiana was generally able to stop the Hilltoppers in their tracks. The Hoosiers got a nice effort out of Greg Brown (5 tackles), who kept WKU from doing a whole lot between the tackles. Outside linebacker Will Patterson (7 tackles, 2 TFLs), meanwhile, was extremely active early and had five of his stops on WKU's first two possessions. Western Kentucky tried handing the ball off to wideouts Derrius Brooks and Wenquel Graves out of the backfield as well, but Black was the only runner who managed a gain of more than seven yards.
Notable: The 63 yards rushing is the fewest the IU defense has yielded since limiting Western Michigan to 30 yards on 30 carries in a 37-27 week two win last season. Indiana's defense limited four of 13 opponents in '07 to less than 100 yards rushing – Indiana State (46 yards), Western Michigan (30), Ball State (67) and Purdue (78).
Passing defense – B
The Hilltoppers are looking to be more balanced offensively this season, and K.J. Black had a nice afternoon throwing the ball by completing 19-of-31 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. He was held in check in the first half when he was just 6-of-11 throws for 30 yards, but he was 13-of-20 for 189 yards and a touchdown the rest of the way. While Indiana relied on Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors for their one-on-one coverage abilities a year ago, it will likely utilize more zone schemes this season. That plays to the strengths of players such Chris Phillips, Chris Adkins and Richard Council, who are bigger, more physical corners who will be better able to close on receivers and then try to separate the ball once it arrives. Both Adkins and Council saw their first game action Saturday, and both did enough good things to suggest IU's corners won't be as big of a concern as maybe some expected.
Notable: The Hoosiers didn't have any interceptions Saturday, marking the first time that's happened in a regular season game since Michigan State's Brian Hoyer was 20-of-23 without a pick in MSU's 52-27 week seven win last season. The Michigan State contest was the only regular season game of the '07 season that IU didn't have at least one interception (IU also didn't have any interceptions against Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl).
Special teams – C-
One of the biggest concerns entering the game was how punter Chris Hagerup would perform in his first game, and he clearly struggled. The freshman had a mishandled snap that resulted in him getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage as well as a 12-yard punt, making it a debut to forget. Joe Kleinsmith got off a 50-yard punt late in the game when he came in in relief, but Lynch said Hagerup's job is secure. On top of Hagerup's struggles, Nick Polk fumbled a fair catch attempt on a punt return inside the IU 10-yard line that could have been disastrous if not for the fact he was able to fall on the ball and maintain possession.
Notable Stat: Austin Starr converted a 28-yard field goal and was a perfect 4-of-4 on extra points, making him a staggering 74-of-76 on attempts dating back to the start of last season. A year ago, Starr was 48-of-48 on extra points and 21-of-23 on field goals.
Overall – B
One of the biggest things Indiana wants to do this season is not rely so much on Kellen Lewis for it to be successful, and it once again leaned on the junior quarterback a great deal Saturday. He had a hand in 329 of IU's 407 yards of total offense, 185 of which came on nine runs. The Hoosiers did get a nice effort out of the defense despite the absence of last year's NCAA sack leader Greg Middleton, as Jammie Kirlew recorded two sacks and new starters such as Matt Mayberry and Chris Adkins had solid debuts. Special teams remains a concern after the struggles of Chris Hagerup Saturday, but the hope is he'll get things straightened out in practice during the week and gain some confidence with a better effort this weekend against Murray State.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Western Kentucky
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